Chukchi Deer Herders (“Chav’chu”)

Chukchi Deer Herders

Among Chukchi especially distinguished are those whose foundation of welfare comes from owning deer and produce from the sea.

Main Welfare of Chukchi

Deer for Chukchi is everything. They were ridden. Deer gives meat, and the female deer – milk. Clothes made of reindeer skin allow Chukchi to survive in the cold and outside of their huts.

Herding deerwas exclusively a man’s job. The men also hunted.

In hunting for birds Chukchi used “bols” (ropes tied to a weight), which were thrown into flying birds. When hitting a bird, the bolentangled her. Waterfowls were just beaten with sticks in the water.

Reindeer herds were sometimes quite large. And in any case, the deer remained relatively wild.

Women Chukchi were responsible for all housekeeping and making clothes.

In the summer men herders went on for months to the tundra to herd reindeer, and women and children remained in their camps near rivers and the sea.

Unique Invention – Yaranga


Chukchi yaranga – a house made ​​of animal skins on the frame, a “real home”, had two sections. In the first chamber, protected from the external environment, Chukchi prepared food and lived. In the second, the inner chamber –they slept. The temperature in the second chamber, even in cold weather could reach up to +25 degrees Celsius! This allowed Chukchi to sleep normally by taking off their outer clothing. The second chamber was “heated” by the heat of human bodies.

Yaranga was built from poles tied together and covered by a canopy of reindeer skins. Chukchi were able in just a few minutes to disassemble or assemble a yaranga.

Yaranga was lit and to some extent heated by zhirnik. Zhirnik is a lamp made of clay or stone of a suitable shape which was filled with lard and then inserted with a moss wick.

Chukchi Transport – Sledges

Chukchi made light sleighs – sledges. They were easyto move on the snow and also slid nicely over moss. Originally Chukchi dragged sledges themselves. Later, they learned how to harness into them deer and dogs.

Chukchi Beliefs

Chukchi believed in spirits. Spirits could favor Chukchi or hunt for the soul and body of a person.

Among Chukchi animalismwas common. They venerated large animals: polar bear, whale, and walrus.

Sick Chukchi and exhausted elderly often chose death at the hands of a relative. In the case of unbearable emotional suffering a Chukchi could also ask for death by a relative.

Death at the hands of a friend or a relative in intolerable circumstances was considered honorable, and would bring a better fate after death.


The pic 1 from “Russian Arctic and round the world explorers” (1898)

The pic 2 from “Asian Russia”, V.1. (1914)

To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev


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